When car manufacturer Faraday Future announced its plans to build a $1 billion factory in North Las Vegas late last year, things started to look up for a city that has struggled to make a comeback from the recession.
The city’s mayor, John Lee, has said North Las Vegas could become the “breadbasket” of the valley, and has the potential to become an economic powerhouse with the further development of Apex Industrial Park.
As part of a special series of interviews with local and regional mayors, Lee joins KNPR to talk about the state of North Las Vegas.
What are your plans for the acres next to the Veterans Affairs center?
Our thoughts are we know we're going to have down here a medical school and we hope this land will be research and a lot of medical opportunities that this valley still needs.
My goal is to make sure that the VA hospital is the jewel of the whole VA system. It's the newest hospital. They're in stage five of building it out. We want to participate along side of that hospital. To do an economic and health care employment zone.
What is being done to help the downtown area and urban core of North Las Vegas?
We've, over the past 16 years, the city of North Las Vegas has been buying up pieces of properties that were distressed off Lake Mead Dr. there. We've been continually buying properties. We're looking now to see that we can change the gateway to North Las Vegas. We would love to see some class 'A' building to come in there and start moving North Las Vegas to more of a business district than just a community of homes. And that's why we're working so hard on the industrial and the commercial.
North Las Vegas is an $18 billion business. It is a huge business over there. It takes a little bit of time and a little bit of planning to move it at the same pace. We're really moving at about four or five areas I think in the next five years you're going to see each of those areas you've talked about as benefiting from the city council and staff that we have.
Is transportation part of that infrastructure?
We've been working on a big arterial called the North 5th Arterial. It will go from down by Jerry's Nugget and it will go all the way out to the 215. It will have six lanes. It will be big. It will go over the freeways. It will be a direct path when it gets all completed.
Will North Las Vegas be part of any plans for light rail in Clark County and the city of Las Vegas?
We would probably be down the line quite a few years. We would be a connector to the original system that was built. I can fully understand that because we're still doing quite well in North Las Vegas to and from, but the other areas they're working on they need to get on that right now.
Between 2000 to 2010, North Las Vegas nearly doubled its population. Do you ever think that that kind of population growth will be seen again?
Yeah. I don't say no, especially now with what's happening in the rest of the nation seeing that we're open for business. The old 'North Town' moniker, it's over. North Las Vegas is alive and well. We are going to be a huge economic driver for this community. And growth will come because of jobs. We, of course, want everyone who goes to school here to get those jobs. Our residents to get those jobs but then again we're going to be bringing in intellect in areas we've never had before.
We're going to have to have places to house those people. I like that we're diversifying our economy.
How have things improved since 2011 when the state nearly took over the city's finances?
Well. It's gone great. Recognizing I had been in the Legislature for 14 years and had great relationships with the intelligence the state has. They came down and I looked at it with them and I've been very blessed to be able to surround us with some very genius people in finance. Our CFO is Darren Adair, he was a CFO at Switch. We've been able to bring people in like that to start working with the state. Along with working with our unions. Along with working with all our vendors, all our bond holders. We've done extremely well. We went from $156 million down to $76 million. We're less than that now.
North Las Vegas has a resiliency to it. And the new city hall is only 1 percent of the budget. It's not a big thing but they had a tsunami of different events that took place in different building processes, like Craig Ranch Region park, a new sewer system, a new city hall, revenues that weren't being collected, the economy took a drop. So it was just horrible, but that being said, we're doing fine now.
What is the next brick that needs to fall into place to make the Faraday Future process happen?
The Faraday deal will be a jobs enhancer, but because of the abatement, sales tax, property tax things like that, the city won't receive as much money on that property as it would have had it been just a private use by somebody but because Faraday was so special we felt it was wise, and the state and the legislature did as well, to get it here. It's the attraction that it brings for other companies to come. Now those other companies will come and pay all those fees and everything.
It's a powerful company, but the real jobs and the real business that comes because of that will be the wealth for the valley. Faraday will have 4,500 direct jobs, 13,500 in direct jobs, $87 billion to the state economy over the next 20 years.
John Lee, mayor, North Las Vegas
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